The Troll Museum is located in a sixth floor walk up building at 122-124 Orchard St #19 on the Lower East Side (Chinatown) of New York City. The museum is just down the street from the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street, and within blocks of the Williamsburg Bridge.
The museum is owned by Jen Miller, aka “Reverend Jen,” a 5’3″ pixyish Lower East Side artist, media personality (“The Patron Saint of Uncool”), actress, “trollologist,” and a self-proclaimed elf who wears pointy, prosthetic ears (since 1992).
“There’s this idea in America that when you go to a museum you have to be very serious and quiet. And I hated that. I’m just trying to bring back fun to museum-going. – RevJen”
Jen’s obsessive love for her fuzzy-haired, saucer-eyed plastic trolls began at age of nine-years-old, when she purchased her first doll in a mall and called it Adrianna. It is large troll in a yellow dress with a sequined headband adorning her orange hair. When a steam pipe exploded in 2010, Adrianna and many other trolls were scarred or damaged in the unforeseen event.
Jen’s diverse collection of vintage troll dolls and memorabilia are housed in the front room of her tiny apartment. They include trolls made by Ace Novelty, Norfin, Russ, Uneeda and other companies. Some trolls are called Wishniks (rub their hair for good luck) and pastel-hued Treasure trolls from the 90’s (rub the gem on their belly for good luck).
There are also troll dolls in Nineties garb, in punk clothing, nurse outfits and Elvis gear, as well as cyborg trolls, soap trolls, a pregnant troll, a haunted troll (with a stab wound in its neck), a two-headed troll from the 1960s RevJen calls the “Mona Lisa of this Louvre,” and a three-foot-tall blue-haired troll wearing a construction helmet.
The museum, which opened on September 20, 2000, also serves as a home to Rev. Jen Junior (a Chihuahua) and Tenney (a rescued cat). Visits to Jen’s apartment are by appointment only (212-560-7235) at which time, Rev Jen conducts a tour of the museum and provides unique stories about each of her 400 smiling/grimacing trolls.
In addition to the many troll dolls inside her apartment, there is a chart explaining the subtle differences between Norfin, Russ, Ace Toys and “black market” trolls; a television and VCR for viewing troll-themed videos (including the 1986 horror movie “Troll,” featuring Sonny Bono); and a gift shop complete with museum T-shirts and trinkets. Admission is free, however there is a suggested donation of $3000. There are also several self-portraits of RevJen (all featuring her elf ears).
RevJen’s troll museum has been covered in The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday magazine, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, Gothamist, Daily Mail UK, Toy Collector magazine, as well as, been featured on local evening news spots and the Smithsonian network. The Danish CEO of the Norfin Company, the original creators of trolls, even came for a visit.
NOTE: A Maryland native and the School of Visual Arts graduate, Jen Miller wrote “Sex Symbol for the Insane,” a handmade book of essays and letters; co-founded the Dance Liberation Front, an organization protesting the city’s cabaret laws; and hosted the Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, an open-mic night held every Wednesday at the Lower East Side’s Collective Unconscious performance space.
As she mentioned in the Huffington Post review of her book, “Elf Girl” (2011),
“I am an elf-eared performance artist, writer, painter and ordained Reverend (Universal Life Church) who lives in a “Troll Museum” with a Chihuahua named Reverend Jen Junior. For over 16 years, I’ve hosted an open mike on Manhattan’s Lower East Side populated by freaks like me who live to make art even if it means having only 4 dollars in the bank (which I currently do)… And this is the crux of Elf Girl – the struggle to be an artist, pay rent, eat and survive in the face of adversity…I’ve worked as a costumed frog at the zoo, a Christmas elf at Bloomingdales and a Slurpee technician at 7-11. I’ve been thrown out of FAO Schwartz for causing a ruckus while dressed as Doo-Doo, a hard-drinking Teletubby and I’ve been tossed from the Broadway sidewalk for performing my one-person musical “Rats.” I’ve led a hokey-pokey circle around City Hall in protest of New York’s dance laws, attended a death metal festival dressed as a member of the Christian hair metal band, Stryper, and lay in a hospital bed on death’s door because of lack of health insurance. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t done except make money so get the hell out there and buy my book. I promise you’ll laugh your ass off and possibly even be inspired.”
In 2013, RevJen lost her job at the Tenement Museum after nine years. As of 2014, the Troll Museum is facing possible closure, In attempt to get back on her feet, Jen started a Go Fund Me page to raise the $5,000 to pay three months’ back rent she owes on the rent-controlled apartment. Here’s hoping she finds the means to keep the unique museum open to the public and troll enthusiasts alike.
The Troll Museum
122-124 Orchard St #19
New York City, NY 10002
Untapped Cities (Article)
Diary of an Art Star (Article)
Elf Girl Book – Amazon (Webpage)
RevJen’s Troll Stroll Facebook (Website)
Visit to Troll Museum (Video)
Smithsonian Channel (Video)
Michelle’s Troll Collection (Video)